Ecumenism between the White Lines

Ecumenism between the White Lines June 21, 2019

Roman Catholics worrying about whether to stay in the church has dissipated somewhat since the farther we get from the headlines of scandal (though the news does not actually slow), the less pressing the dilemmas feel. For Roman Catholics in West Virginia who recently of former Bishop Michael Bransfield, the choice may be more to withhold funds than to go to church elsewhere (either with Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox):

Now that parishioners fear their funds might just be going to finance a bishop’s fancy lifestyle, they may stop giving. Standing at the edge of the baptismal font cut into the concrete floor of his Shepherdstown parish, Pierpont said, over the sound of the trickling water, that he fears the funds that keep this building going will dry up.

About a quarter of Catholics nationwide told Pew Research Center recently that they’ve reduced their church donations due to church scandal. About the same number said they go to Mass less often, too. So Pierpont worries about an even more important resource disappearing: the people.

Last Easter, for the first time he can remember, no one was immersed in this baptismal font. There were no new Catholics, here, to baptize.

At the same time, readers can find all sorts of indications that Protestantism is actually a legitimate version of Christianity. It used to be that people talked about an ecumenism of the trenches, a form of cooperation between Roman Catholics and Protestants on matters like opposition to abortion and gay marriage. These days, one of the most important sectors of Roman Catholic appreciation for Protestantism is athletics. Several months ago, Archbishop Charles Chaput (Philadelphia) recommended born-again Protestant, Tim Tebow, for his genuine faith:

In his devotion to these special human lives, Tebow uses his celebrity as an athlete to serve others. While he’s not a Catholic, he’s a committed Christian. And to those guests with special needs and their families, he’s also the truest kind of hero.

Committed Christian is certainly a higher mark than schismatic or heretic.

More recently, the editors at Catholic Vote have run a story about the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s belief in Christ:

Members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team don’t just identify as soccer players. They identify in Christ….On social media, several of the players reveal that they have a relationship with God.

On her Twitter account, star player Tobin Heath’s bio simply says “ephesians 2:8-9.” That passage reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Throughout the years, she has quoted the Bible and posted inspirational messages including “God is good. All the time.” In 2018, Heath tweeted “thank you Lord for another day” while recovering from an injury. Seven years earlier, she wrote about attending church at Hillsong NYC as well as a Bible study.

In a 2011 interview with Beliefnet, she revealed she was raised in a Christian home. Her career, she added, was for God.

“I play to glorify Him. I worship Him with the gifts I’ve been given. Through that, I just hope He can be glorified,” she said. “I try to keep that as my motivation when I step out on the field every day whether it’s practice or a game. It’s to work as hard as I can in thankfulness for what He’s given me and hopefully some of that can come back to Him.”

Likewise, her teammate Julie Ertz calls herself a believer in her Twitter bio. In 2017, she remembered God in a tweet of gratitude: “Thank you to my family, the fans and the coaches. God is good!”

Faith also plays a role in her marriage, Philly Mag reported in 2018. Her husband Zach, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, revealed “we’ve built our marriage on a strong foundation of the Word and lean on Jesus when we need to.”

For what it’s worth, Tobin Heath says nothing about the church or the bishops in her understanding of Christ. Meanwhile, Julie Ertz, though she attended a Jesuit College now worships at a non-denominational church outside Philadelphia.

All of which is just a reminder that being Protestant is not so bad. If Roman Catholics tire of the bishops and the cover-ups, they can seemingly convert to Protestantism and remain Christian.

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